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In Big Pool, King's legacy 'Endures'

January 18, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

BIG POOL -- Blended voices, rich and rollicking, filled every inch inside Mount Carmel United Methodist Church on Sunday during a musical tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

With the steadiness of a metronome, a choir visiting from Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hagerstown sang, stepped and swayed during a show it has performed too many times to remember.

"The Dream Endures," written by Ebenezer AME Church member Robert W. Johnson, weaves together recorded segments of King's speeches, a written history of his life and accomplishments, and traditional songs.

Gary Graves, another parishioner, narrated, tracing King's path from his home state of Georgia to the bus boycott in Alabama to the march on Washington, D.C.

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The church's senior choir illustrated each segment of King's life with songs such as "If I Can Help Somebody" and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Had."

"Peace in the Valley" came after the story of his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

"Let My People Go" followed the description of a 50-mile protest march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama.

The last spoken segment covered King's assassination in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968.

The accompanying song was "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory," which King quoted to conclude his final speech.

Deborah L. Simmons directed the choir and Graves' wife, Laurie Graves, played the piano.

Choir member Robert Burnett read King's "I Have a Dream" speech aloud.

Later, he said the church has performed "The Dream Endures" for more than 15 years, which is how long he has belonged to the church.

Sometimes, the performances are at other churches, such as the one on Sunday, the day before today's national holiday to celebrate King's life.

Burnett called the historical compilation "enlightening."

"Every time we do it, it doesn't get old for us," he told Gerry Reid, a 50-year member of Mount Carmel United Methodist Church.

Simmons said she likes spreading the word about King's life and legacy.

"We've come a long way, but we're still not completely there yet," she said.

Reid stood and praised the choir at the end of the 45-minute performance.

"Thank you so much," she said. "You certainly awakened this church."

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